Understanding ASCII Art

It’s pretty easy to see that I’ve taken the step of using ASCII art in my next game, Gemstone Keeper, and it’s pretty difficult to not notice it if you see the screenshots I’ve been posting for #IndieDevHour or Screenshot Saturday.

This writeup will explain my understanding as mainly an outsider and relative newcomer to the ASCII art and Roguelike Development scenes, and hopefully explain my reasons why I chose to move to ASCII art, and how I am approaching it to make my own style to the art form.

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IRDC 2015 Review

So to sum up last weekend, when I went to Nottingham for the International Roguelike Developer Conference 2015’s UK event, I’m not kidding when I said I had little expectations, considering that the Roguelike genre is still fairly new to me, despite spending a year researching procedural level generation for my University dissertation. Despite this, I had a great time and was able to gain a lot from the games, the genre and the role of procedural generation from these two days.

Day Zero

Although I have met the event organiser Mark Johnson and Roguelike developer Darren Grey from the PROCJAM conference organised last year, I wasn’t sure if I was able to meet anyone at the pre-meetup, especially since Mark unfortunately went down with food poisoning before the pre-meet began. However I decided to head off to the Bell Inn and see if I could find anyone.

By chance, I went to the bar and a man sitting at the table asked me “You here for IRDC?”, that man was Johannes Kristmann, and with him was Paul Jeffries. We talked about games, had drinks, and they joked about IRDC events of the past and eventually more people showed up, including Alan Charlesworth, Tom Betts and Ido Yehieli. We all decided to have more talks and drinks at Darren’s apartment block until we all decided to head to our respective hotels to prepare for tomorrow.

Day One

These were all the talks that were given that day (taken from Mark Johnson’s blog):

1025 – “”And [my bot] vowed to return victorious!”: Spelunky as an AI Benchmark” (Tommy Thompson)
1050 – “Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup Development” (Pete Hurst)
1115 – “Alternative Death Systems” (Darren Grey)
1140 – “Generative Design” (Paul Jeffries)
1205 – “Modability and You” (DarkGod)
1330 – “Making a Roguelike that uses Twitter Data” (Sean Oxspring)
1355 – “KeeperRL Development” (Michal Brzozowski)
1420 – “The Curious Expedition Development” (Johannes Kristmann)
1445 – “Murder Puzzle – No Longer a Roguelike” (Ido Yehieli)
1510 – “Scaling Brogue“ (Flend)
1535 – “Creating a Procedural Level Editor” (Me)
1600 – “Sir, you are Being Hunted Development” (Tom Betts)
1625 – “Algorithmic Generation of Global Racial, Cultural, Religious, and Architectural Variation” (Mark Johnson)

There were so many great talks, some were really funny and others were really informative, I even managed my talk, despite all my nerves. I spoke about a part of my University dissertation, the Procedural Level Editor.

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If you didn’t catch them on Twitch, all of the talks will be online on Youtube in the coming weeks. These talks were followed by curry, and then drinks at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusulem, possibly the oldest pub in England.

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Day Two

This was an experimental part of the day, where members of the public got to try out some classic and modern roguelikes such as DoomRL, Angband and Incursion among others, as well as a selection of board games that possibly inspired Roguelikes.

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So I had a really fun time, and got to speak to a lot of talented game developers about procedural generation and gaming in general. I got to talk about my University dissertation, and I also got to speak on roguelike radio about the conference, which should also be online soon as well.

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So I think it’s time to announce my new main project, during my dissertation I wrote a short prototype game to demonstrate the procedural level editor. I’ve decided to extend this game to be Gemstone Keeper, the roguelike twin-stick shooter. It will use the Procedural Level Editor, which I will also release for public use when it comes to a stable enough point.

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ThreeThingGame and the Ricoh2DFramework

Between the 11-12th of June, I went up with a friend and fellow Windows Games Ambassador Aaron Smith, along with a games design student Nathan Holding to the University of Hull for ThreeThingGame, the University’s 24 hour games jam. The premise is that each team was provided three words, and were tasked with making a game that incorporated them. The games would be judged on how well they fit the three things, and the quality of the game overall and the winning teams would get prizes.

This was going to be an interesting event for all three of us, as despite being used to travelling around several campuses for events, Hull was way far out for us. We were also aware that the majority of students there had been at ThreeThingGame before and new how it all worked. However Aaron and I were a bit more confident in what we could pull off together since we went through a games jam one week prior, where we learned to have a proper functioning version control system that the tools can work with, as well as having an actual artist working with us this time. Our three words were Room, Moon and Lune, and from that we made a Lunar Lander style space game where you avoided asteroids and landed on moon bases.

We also had an additional tool to work with, my Ricoh2DFramework. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before on this site, but the Ricoh2DFramework is a framework for MonoGame. The purpose of the framework is to provide classes to assist with graphics, collision, input and audio among other functions. I was actually quite eager to use Ricoh2D in a game development project to see how well it works practically.

Game Development went rather well, and while there were some small issues found in the Ricoh2DFramework, they were easily fixed and all of those changes have been uploaded to the Ricoh2DFramework’s repository. There were also some performance issues that required some work arounds in order to avoid (slow downs, glitches and crashes galore), but in the end we finished the game.

What went right:

  • Proper source control: Using C# and MonoGame with Github is much better than the last games jam at Stafford, where we tried to use Unity with Git. Overall it was a nightmare back then to merge all the changes and ensure the project work. Using a system that is completely text based and readable made the process much more easier.
  • More prepared: Using the Ricoh2DFramework definitely saved some time in developing the game, and even though the framework had issues they were much quicker to deal with instead of having to build everything up from scratch.
  • Having an artist: Definitely enables the team to work on the game while assets are being created, instead of having to be made during or after development where issues can arise.

What went wrong:

  • Didn’t sleep enough: All three of us, me especially, thought we could spend the entire night working on the game. We didn’t. I could barely stay awake after literally staying awake for 24 hours, even with an abundance of food, drink and snacks to help us keep our energy.
  • Technical issues: While some performance issues were most likely due to some of the original code that was developed for the game, we also had numerous unexplained crashes from Microsoft and SharpDX libraries. This was especially bad when the game crashed unexpectedly with an unhandled exception while judges were looking at our game. This could’ve been one of the reasons why we didn’t get a place in the rankings, but since we were still using the Technical preview, hopefully issues would be ironed out afterwards.

Overall, I rather enjoyed ThreeThingGame. It’s a neat idea for a games jam and everyone at the University of Hull was very enthusiastic and eager to make games, which makes it even more impressive as the University doesn’t have a specialist games course unlike Staffordshire University.

Now it’s back to the Procedural Level Editor and my newest game project Gem Finder, where I’ve already started on new features…

Glow Drop DX and Global Games Jam are Out!

Over the last week, I’ve technically had to prepare for two releases, and guess what? Both games are out, and I’ve updated the game menu to include links to them! It’s pretty cool how both games were originally made at 48 hour game jams, and both are being updated as we speak. Feel free to read on about my experiences with Global Games Jam this year, and try out these two releases as soon as possible, all feedback is awesome!

Glow Drop DX

We Are Surrounded

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Ludum Dare 31 Favourites So Far!

So after rating 100 games for Ludum Dare, I thought I’d talk a bit about a few of my favourites from the jam. They may not be the best out of the competition, but these were the ones that I find have an aspect of good entries that each of these succeed at.

Tightrope Theatre

This is the entry done by brilliant flash game developer Jussi Simpanen, aka AdventureIslands. He always does games for jams big and small and his entries usually bring a quirky design and incredible polish to them, and this one is no exception. In Tightrope Theatre you must travel from A to B, all while riding a unicycle avoiding fire, spikes and the ground below. The entire game is 24 levels long, and feels very complete for a game done in two days, although you kind of wish there was more. Knowing that Jussi tends to add new stuff to his entries every now and then, maybe there will be more to this entry.

Jumping ‘n Jumping

This is an example of how you should achieve an innovative game in 48 hours, you use one mechanic with a unique spin and give it as much potential as you can. In this case, the mechanic of the game is jumping, and the unique spin is that your jumps are limited, but will increase depending on how you play. Eduardo uses the mechanic in a room where you have to jump to survive and you get this gem.

Screen Mover

Most game jams have a theme, and as a developer you are free to interpret that theme to whatever for your game: you can use a literal route (in LD31, that would mean literally running the entire game on one screen), the metaphorical route or the technical route. With Screen Mover, Sh1rogane decided to go beyond literal and technical with the theme to produce something that may look like a simple platform prototype, until you quickly realise you have to move the game window to progress. The only issue with this idea is that keyboard input it locked while the window moves, but the post jam version does fix this.

The Hyperbeam

Sometimes you don’t have to make a game that’s fun to make it a good entry, you can tell a story, show off some great music or in this case, make some really beautiful graphics. The puzzle game elements are clever, but this game is really good at showing off bloom and neon. It just makes it look wonderful, and the music is really soothing as well. As you may tell from my entry, I love neon glow, and this game does a great job at showing it off.

Swotch

If all else fails, just make a game that is fun to play, and make it addictive for an added bonus. This game’s style reminds me a lot of Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon, and since the developer is planning an Android/iOS release, I recommend him get Chipzel to do music for the game.

Don’t forget to play my entry Glow Drop if you haven’t already.

Ralph Baer & Ludum Dare 31

https://i1.wp.com/www.vintagecomputing.com/wp-content/images/interviews/baer_harrison_pong_3_large.jpgI would first like to start this post by talking about Ralph Baer, wildly known as the father of video games who passed away on December 6th. Since 1966 he always had the idea of games that can be displayed on television screens, and developed what he calls “the brown box” which had rotary controls and played a simple tennis game with two panels and a square ball. This patented idea eventually got picked up by TV manufacturer Magnavox and became the Odyssey, wildly considered the first video games console. Along with essentially founding computer and video games as we know it today, he also invented the classic electronic game Simon (and its sequel Super Simon) and carried on developing and tinkering with electronic prototypes, giving him 150 patents to his name.

He lived a full life and his work has lead to the creation of the largest entertainment history, and lot of gamers and game developers are where they are today because of his work.

So last weekend was Ludum Dare, the 31st bi-annual 48-hour games jam. The theme for this one was “Entire Game on One Screen”, a bit basic for a theme but it’s much better than the joke theme that got a lot hype in the voting stages (no snowmen please!).

You can play my entry right now, it’s called Glow Drop and it’s a physics based puzzle game, just click the image below to go to the Ludum Dare page!

I initially wanted to develop my entry using HaxeFlixel, but software issues struck and I was unable to use it, and since on the Saturday I spent most of my time developing on a train to London with no wi-fi, I decided to switch to using Construct2.

While I didn’t really feel motivated to using Construct2 again after spending over a year developing a certain award nominated stealth game using it, turns out for the game I ended up making it was worthwhile. Construct2 has one of the most easiest physics set up out of any engine I’ve used, and since the entire game has to be on a single screen, it’s much easier to manage a visual layout than a coded game state

Since I was out with friends and family for most of Saturday, I was hoping to release for the 72-hour jam. However, when I noticed that most of the game and the graphics were finished with four hours remaining, I felt like I could pull it off and upload for the compo, and I succeeded!

I’m already getting positive comments so far, so I might use a day or two from my Christmas break to polish the game more and release it as a mobile game! If you guys like the idea let me know if there is anything I could add/change to make it work!

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Secret of Escape – Nearly Ready for Release

I’m happy to announce that Secret of Escape is now at the stage where release is on the horizon, so currently we are getting promotional content ready and getting a release date set so we can let as many content publishers and gamers know that we are coming.

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